Margarida Paiva

Margarida Paiva is a visual artist, originally from Portugal, living and working in Oslo.
In 2007, she completed her MFA degree at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, and has earlier studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Porto and Art Academy in Trondheim. Her work has been shown widely in exhibitions and international festivals since 2000, and she has received several art grants. Her short film Every Story Is Imperfect (2012) has recently been awarded at FOKUS 2014, Nikolaj Kunsthal (DK).

Recent exhibitions include Stories and Desires From Who Sleeps at Galeria Camara Oscura in Madrid (ES), Stereo. Not Mono at Galleri F 15 in Moss (NO), 3rd Space / II Baltic Biennale in St. Petersburg (RU), Fail Again Fail Better at Tromsø Kunstforening (NO) and solo exhibitions at Galleria Muratcentoventidue in Bari (IT) and Interkulturelt Museum in Oslo (NO).


For every silence there is a void

by Lisa Stålspets
Exhibition publication, Akershus Kunstsenter, Oslo © 2014

In the last scene of the film Blow up by Michelangelo Antonioni, the protagonist walks by a tennis match played by pantomime artists. They are playing but they have neither rackets nor a tennis ball. They are playing using only their bodies. A group of other theatrical looking people are watching them and so is the protagonist. Everyone follows the invisible ball going back and forth. At one point “the ball” ends up outside the fence, and the protagonist is asked not with words but by body language to run and get it, toss it back into the tennis court. The presence of something that is absent is obvious. The scene contains a void which at the same time is an agreement, and at the centre of attention. Blow up is built upon the ambiguity of the gaze and the space of interpretation that lets us create stories and make sense out of everyday reality. When watching Margarida Paiva’s videos I see similar spaces of interpretation, of ambiguity and doubt, present themselves. I have a feeling that I am listening in on a conversation; I know the language but can only hear fragments of words. What happened? Why? I am placed in the middle of the story. Like a detective or a concerned citizen.

Margarida Paiva’s characters talk to me. They speak about things that have happened to them, they confess. They talk about violence, trauma and survival. They are both victims and offenders. What they have in common is a loneliness that is overpowering them. What they have in common is that they are reliving their trauma over and over.
Margarida Paiva has worked on a series of videos on the theme of violence from a female perspective for the last three years. In her video Every story is imperfect the violence is witnessed from a far. Voices from the radio report about acts of violence. The perspective is distanced. It somehow does not concern you. In I will hurt you before you hurt me Paiva has chosen a different approach and used interviews made with women who have been found guilty of murder. The interviews have been fictionalized and in a series of improvisations with actors that think themselves into the position of being killers we get an unusual insight into the act of killing. Margarida Paiva’s most recent work The Day I Wasn’t There features three female characters. Three stories about violent accidents are being told. It is unclear whether the violence was really due to accidents or if it was self-inflicted. The women in the video are presented without names. They are of the same age, with the same hair colour and of roughly the same build. A narrator with a female voice recounts about an experience of trauma. Slowly a story unravels, bits and pieces of an experience that she does not have all the answers to. Simultaneously as we listen to the fragmented story we watch the three women in different urban scenarios. The voice of the narrator is not connected to any of the characters on the screen, or rather: the voice could belong to any of these women. The women share the experience of surviving a trauma. They have different stories but they could replace each other. It could be anyone of them. It could be you.

One does not witness any actual violence in Margarida Paiva’s video works. There is no blood, there are no knives, no acute panic or car chases. What is at stake here are the psychological impacts of violence. One stays inside a scenario that one is not allowed to exit. A labyrinth of low intensive pain. To get out of the labyrinth one has to put the pieces of the story together and understand what it was that happened. This labyrinth takes on geographical forms. The characters in Margarida Paiva’s videos are often on their way somewhere. Up and down staircases, watching the trains, getting on or off, walking away from something, walking into darkness. They never really go anywhere though. The movement in Margarida Paiva’s videos are that of a constant pulse, movements that signifies the life of the city. What we witness is a circular movement, a stand still, a breathing in and out. We are being rocked by the wave of commuters going in and out of the trains, back and forth in their circles and routines, steady as the waves of the ocean hits the shore and withdraws. There is something wrong in this picture though. An undercurrent of anxiety. Something unspoken that dominates the scene. Maybe by telling their stories, finding the invisible tennis ball and throwing it back into the tennis court, the characters can move on.

Lisa Stålspets (b. Stockholm 1978) is a visual artist living and working in Oslo. She holds an MFA from Trondheim Art Academy. Her works have been shown in both solo and group exhibitions in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Germany. She is represented in the collection of the State Art Council in Sweden, Trondheim municipality and Levanger art association. Lisa Stålspets is also contributing editor of the quarterly art magazine MÅG and writes about art on a freelance basis.

The pain-image and an irreparable melancholy

by Carlota Gonçalves
Text first published for Contemporânea, Spring Edition © 2014

In the work of Margarida Paiva, video is used as a medium which responds to the artist’s intent to experiment with the image allowing to combine sounds, playing with the light, the space and the bodies. In addition to the formal aspects, there is a purpose to develop ideas and themes that have become recurrent in her work in which the focus is the woman. The woman is the central figure, and violence, isolation, trauma, pain, and an irreparable melancholy join this range of tensions that compose the universe of Margarida Paiva.
The first video of the artist was made in the forest in Norway, where she lives and works. There is nothing more inspiring for someone interested in nature and Land Art than to start in the Nordic landscape, which becomes a trigger for creation, in a meeting with the desire for the image and the aspiration to tell stories.

The videos of Margarida Paiva emphasize the mise en scène, an aspect which develops within a cinematographic style which creates links with performance. It approaches the docufiction when using real recordings of sound material in the narration as counterpoint to the fictional dimension in which the characters move. She prefers to use friends instead of actors, and makes use sometimes of her own person, in a close representation of the idea of ​​”automatically inspired and inventive models”*.

Margarida Paiva seems to empty the emotional expression of representation and leave the bodies to shape, or to model themselves to things, to the encounters and disencounters of images that are assembled in the montage – a meeting place for discovery and recomposition. The more realistic and direct sound layer adds a strange density to the overall tonality. The sound material is taken from radio or television news reports, and from various testimonies which restate the continuous accidents, violent and persistent, experienced by people portraying a world taken by its idiosyncrasies. In this world there is drama. A drama that discloses itself in the private domain sprawling to a larger dimension, and used as interference in everyday life, maybe just as background noise, turning into an echo of an undifferentiated banality of violence, this is what Margarida Paiva seems to alert us of.

Every Story Is Imperfect (2012)* is a video which responds to this demand for reality (or unreality). The news which continuously report, in this case women, disappeared, raped, or murdered, are informative data, cited by the media, where Margarida Paiva withdraws material and recreates an entire universe of interferences where women (several), and men (maybe two), inhabit the possibility of an ”unfinished” narrative*. The montage makes this incomplete appearance, through cuts between images which occur and repeat, as a discontinuous blow which is close to an idea of death. Time passes as the trains move. Someone climbs up and down the stairs (recurring element), walks through corridors, there are sad and empty eyes in close-up, and more hands and feet; bare feet that will go down the stairs like a painful crusade that insists on testing the ground. These are delicate operations which are revealed in the fragmented succession of images, as an expressive web, ambiguous and never transparent, as a communication of pain, loneliness, inhabited by a bursting melancholy. There is an ambiguous field that crosses the general composition like waiting for a mystery - at the end a woman disappears in a very green grassy field. Behind the leaves the camera and the viewer peek at this woman disappearing in nature. Salvation or death? We’re not sure.

The clarifying word of the real news reports is spreading the fictional plot which the film suggests and recreates webs of meaning. They seem to be thoughtful images, in the sense proposed by Rancière, as images that do not show through, don’t give away their meaning, encompass a tension and a duplicity attached through the nature of the recordings in cohesion: the fictional and the documentary. The images become therefore thoughtful in the sense that they provide, on the one hand, the continuation of the action (broken and split), and on the other hand, create a suspension that makes the picture inconclusive: “( … ) What is interrupted is the relationship between narration and expression”*.

The video I’ll Hurt You Before You Hurt Me (2013) is elaborated through the same principle of using authentic material in the story, alongside a fictional process, and in this case with a touch of thriller, another genre that interests the artist in this combination of forms. The voice-over was worked through from actual testimonies of women who killed. Here the woman turns from victim to killer, isolated, and emotionally thick. The rawness of the narrative facts distances itself, at times, from the appearance of the image. To speak about death, or of details of a murder, and walking through the woods where one can hear the birds is the same thing. Margarida Paiva expertly works with the mismatch between image and sound, and also some out-of-frame close-ups of faces. The close-up ”violent and obscene” (Bonitzer), hosts in itself a strength, a despair, allying itself with the out-of-frame which seems to accentuate the emotional imbalance and anguish of the characters. We follow the women from behind (another curious way to build the mystery, to go beyond the visible and open up the image to the distant, the unknown, to a kind of silence), dance in corridors, cross urban and architectural spaces and visit nature.

A House Full of Noises (2014) is the most recent video of the artist, which will be part of a sound installation, in the process of completion, with women’s voices telling stories in a conversational manner. The title comes from an earlier work Untitled Stories (2007) where a female voice, invoking memories, says: “I just moved here and the house is full of noises”. It is curious the adaptation that the artist makes of interchangeable elements and themes that are extended as lines of passage, echoes of voices, distant, traveling in memory and claiming to return. This is a house-woman, cocooned, container of memories and secrets, domestic space par excellence, which can better reflect the image of isolation, according to the artist. It is therefore in this interior, perhaps the ideal shelter and place for a dancing body and a mental dance, a bit classical, a bit primitive, where it faces a large window where shimmers of light enter. The atmosphere poeticizes itself in this scenario, and in the view of the character’s femininity, perfect silhouette with the hair covering her face, as it performs smooth and intense movements which conveys a thin and sharp pain binded to the floor and the light. The melodic and gentle music creates, towards the image, an even more harrowing and saddened connection with an invasive and penetrating power. In the end the woman disappears from the frame which becomes submersed by shadows, like a magnificent expressionist painting, in clear obscure, or a possible plastic configuration of pain.”( … ) Your film – let people feel the soul and the heart there, but let it be made like a work of hands”*- this phrase seems to resonate in the work of the artist.

Margarida Paiva’s work shows a female topography possessed by pain and visited by a desperate melancholy, or by an unnamed sadness. Strong and elusive, delicate, fragile and uncluttered images which give visibility to disintegrated bodies that look for a place outside and inside themselves. The physical spaces echo, nature and city, city and nature, and maybe the latter could be the possible place for new beginnings. Back to the forest where the images began.

* Bresson, Robert, 1995, “Notes sur le Cinématographe”, Ed Gallimard, Paris.
*  Was one of three winning works of FOKUS 2014 Video Art Festival at Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen.
* From the text “The melancholia of imperfection”, by André Lamas Leite, 2012.
*  Rancière, Jacques, 2010 , “The emancipated spectator” Trad . José Miranda Fair, Ed. Orfeu Negro, Lisbon.
* Bresson, Robert, 1995, “Notes sur le cinématographe”, Ed. Gallimard, Paris.

Carlota Gonçalves studied cinema (Realization) at the Conservatoire Libre Cinéma Français in Paris, has a Master in Communication Sciences - Film and TV at the New University of Lisbon and studied French Literature and Civilization at Paris Sorbonne University. Responsible for coordinating the Lisbon Talks IndieLisboa - International Festival for Independent Cinema and part of the selection committee for short films. Works as a teacher in Film History, Aesthetics and Writings.